In an email sent August 2, editors at the New York Times’ metro desk informed freelance critics and writers that the paper would be discontinuing its regular coverage of arts, theatre and restaurants in the tri-state area, affecting New Jersey, Westchester, Long Island and Connecticut. Deadline.com broke the report.
The final date of publication for all reviews and regular coverage in the tri-state region was August 28. More than two-dozen writers were affected by the move.
Where the Times had previously supplemented its NYC-centric metro section by printing and publishing targeted editorial content directed to readers in various markets within the tri-state area, metropolitan editor Wendell Jamieson, said he and Times executive editor Dean Baquet felt that the paper would better served if it were to utilize its resources elsewhere. The Metro section will continue to be circulated across the tri-state area without "zoned content,” according to Jamieson.
The email sent by Jamieson, which was obtained and published by Deadline, reads: “Dean Baquet and I have decided that the resources and energy currently devoted to these local pages could be better directed elsewhere. Therefore, we will publish our final reviews and features in the New Jersey, Westchester, Long Island and Connecticut editions on August 28. The Metropolitan section as it appears in New York City will still be published and circulated throughout the region, but it will no longer include zoned content…. Sorry about this, folks. I want to thank you for all you’ve done, all the fine writing you’ve given our readers. I wish you all the best.”
Eileen M. Murphy, senior vice president communications for the Times, provide the following statement to Playbill.com: “A month ago we confirmed that local culture reviews and features in the regional editions of the Metropolitan section of The New York Times would be discontinued as of August 28. Readers and subscribers in the affected regional areas around NYC will now receive the Metropolitan section as it appears in New York City. These changes had no impact on the daily or weekend culture report, which will still include reviews from beyond Manhattan.
“The New York Times covers culture and the arts from multiple fronts; decisions about coverage in one department don’t necessarily reflect priorities overall. The Culture Department sends critics to review at regional theatres, including those in New Jersey and Connecticut, and will continue to do so. The department’s art critics also regularly venture beyond the precincts of Manhattan and have no intention of changing course.”
Coverage from the Times, especially for non-profit theatres operating in the regions, has always been a vital driver for audience engagement and ticket sales, not to mention fund raising.
Theatre critics weren’t the only ones to take the hit. Journalists covering art and food in New York’s tri-state metro-region were also among those left out of work from the Times.
The New York Times faced backlash from the theatre community last fall when it stopped listing a show’s full creative team in its printed and online reviews. More than 80 playwrights sent a letter, urging the publication to reverse course. United Scenic Artists, Local USA 829, the labor union and professional association of designers, artists and craftspeople, also raised their voices.
The Times reversed course within the month.